First XI Report by Mick Newell

After a season of much-improved limited overs performances but an unsatisfactory showing in the LV= County Championship, the challenge of achieving simultaneous success in three competitions remains our stated aim.

Defending our Championship proved beyond us despite beginning the campaign with successive wins against Hampshire, Yorkshire and Worcestershire. Even in those games, we weren’t scoring the volume of runs required to sustain a title challenge and that must improve if we are to launch a credible push in 2012.

The runs of Mark Wagh and Ali Brown were invaluable in 2010 but they lacked form last season and their in-season retirements left us with a middle order of relative inexperience. Both players were fantastic signings who contributed so much during their time at Trent Bridge, but they will both look back on their final season with disappointment. They have already achieved success in their new careers with Mark entering the law profession and Ali installed as Second Eleven Coach at Surrey and I wish them both every success for the future.

Having started so well, our draw against Yorkshire was followed by four consecutive defeats which effectively ended our title defence.  We weren’t picking up bonus points and although the bowlers were performing reasonably well, confidence had been lost in the batting group. 

Until that point, our focus had been on winning the Championship but it was clear that we needed to re-assess and get back to basics to re-ignite our season. Amongst some indifferent form, we enjoyed great wins over Lancashire and Durham which eased the threat of relegation which we had flirted with briefly.

Alex Hales, Samit Patel, Chris Read and Adam Voges were the standout performers with the bat whilst Andre Adams was a deserving winner of our Player of the Season Award with 67 Championship wickets.

A sixth place finish is well below our expectations and, quite simply, we must do better. The LV= County Championship is our absolute priority and the backing I have received in signing Michael Lumb and James Taylor demonstrates the ambition of our club. Securing two English-qualified players of this repute is an achievement in itself and both Michael and James will have an important role to play in reinforcing our top order.

The group stage of the Friends Life t20 was a very enjoyable time and our home form in front of big crowds at Trent Bridge gave us genuine momentum ahead of the quarter-final draw. Winning the North Group and then finding Somerset in fourth place in the South Group was unfortunate to say the least. Neutral observers saw our respective teams as the strongest in the competition and the quarter-final provided a dramatic finish as we found ourselves on the wrong side of Kieron Pollard once more. 

We can take heart from the rapid improvement we have enjoyed in 20-over cricket over the past two seasons although our success must be measured in trophies. The age profile of our squad has reduced dramatically and we will carefully consider how we can best accommodate a suitable overseas player in our team next season.

Our resurgence in the Clydesdale Bank 40 was the most pleasing element of the latter stages of the season. We had been all but written off after losing three of our first four fixtures but maintained good form thereafter to finish second in Group C. Our policy of providing opportunities for younger players whilst remaining competitive in this competition has served us well and our emerging talent must perform well in this competition if they are to force their way in to our four-day side.

The achievements of Nottinghamshire players on the international scene last year were a great source of pride for all at the club. Graeme Swann and Stuart Broad continue to command senior positions in England’s teams in all formats whilst Alex Hales made his full international debut having built several game-changing innings for Notts. Samit Patel has re-established himself in Andy Flower’s one day thoughts and he must continue to apply himself if he is to realise his Test ambitions. James Taylor and Michael Lumb also hold international ambitions and we hope that their domestic form will further their claims.

I would like to acknowledge the contribution that Charlie Shreck has made since signing for Nottinghamshire in 2003. Charlie came into county cricket relatively late but quickly established himself as a key member of the squad, twice winning our Player of the Year Award. I had an honest discussion with Charlie last season and explained that we were keen to keep him but couldn’t guarantee him a regular place in our four-day side. He has foregone a benefit year to pursue first team cricket with Kent which is an admirable step. I wish him every success for the future.

Brian Hewes, our scorer, and George Rose, our dressing room attendant, have both retired after good service and I hope to see them both enjoying cricket at Trent Bridge next season.

I would also like to place on record my thanks to all of my players, Steve Birks and his groundstaff for their work in providing excellent pitches at Trent Bridge, the Alan Wheelhouse Foundation for their continued support, and my support staff for their efforts in 2011; Wayne Noon, Paul Johnson, Chris Tolley, Helen Palmer, Bill Sweet, Kevin Paxton, Ross Hollinworth, Andy Afford and Mike Hendrick.